tv KQED Newsroom PBS January 31, 2016 5:00pm-5:31pm PST
hello, and welcome to "kqed newsroom." i'm thuy vu. on our show, efforts to stop human trafficking and teaching engineering through play. but first, the super bowl and the city's homeless. next week, worldwide media will descend on san francisco to cover the super bowl. activists are planning protests to draw attention to the issue of homelessness. it's long been one of san francisco's most intractable problems. now highlighted by encampments that seem to be growing. reporter monica lamb takes a closer look. >> reporter: it's a daily routine. city crews across san francisco clean up around homeless encampments. every day, a ton of trash is swept up, scrubbed away, and
hauled off. >> is there any other things you would like to get rid of? >> reporter: the city says it doesn't take personal property or force anyone to move. but david tompkins says when the cameras aren't rolling, things are different. >> i mean, they're shoving around like ping-pong balls. >> reporter: in general, does anyone hassle you? >> nobody asks us to move. they tell us to move. they start taking our stuff. >> reporter: tompkins is a carpenter who lost his home several years ago. now he offers to build homes on wheels for others on the streets. >> i'll build one for anyone free. all they've got to do is ask. >> reporter: the city estimates some 3,500 people make their home on the streets. >> my name is rebecca. i'm 34. and i've been out here for about a year. >> reporter: she lives in a tent under the busy 101 freeway.
>> it was better than being by myself. we have our good days and bad days, i guess. just like normal people. >> padilla says the others who live on this strip of sidewalk are like her family. >> it's all pretty hard. i guess the hardest thing is making sure you don't lose yourself. and giving up hope. staying true. when i put up my christmas tree for everybody, i called it the tree of hope. what else you got? >> with the super bowl around the corner, padilla worries life could get harder. >> we were told that we had to move from the area because of the super bowl. the mayor doesn't want all of this to be seen by the public eye. >> reporter: in august, mayor ed lee is widely quoted as saying
the city's homeless would have to leave the streets before the super bowl. sam dodd, the mayor's appointee to tackle homelessness, says the mayor's remarks were blown out of proportion. >> there's no instructions given to cops to move people for the super bowl. the real thing that we're concerned with right now is el nino and people's health. >> reporter: the city has about 1,200 shelter beds year round. for the rainy winter months, they're looking to double that number. i'm standing in front of one of the city's temporary rain shelters. it's inside that building behind me, and will be open if the weather is bad enough. many of the homeless people i talk to complain that shelters are dirty, dangerous, and only a short-term solution. >> they just let you stay in their shelter for a week or two and then they throw you back on the street. so it's like why put yourself through that, get comfortable in a bed somewhere, to go right
back out on to the street? that's just torture of another torture. >> welcome. >> thank you, thank you. >> get warm, rest up. >> marin just lived into the city's navigation center, a new long-term shelter that opened last year. >> that's teddy. and this is puppy. >> reporter: unlike other shelters, this center allows homeless people to move in as a group and with their pets. and they can stay as long as it takes to find permanent housing. >> i'm so glad, i'm so glad they're in there, man. >> hey, congratulations. it's good to see you. >> reporter: at 38 years old, santi says she's been on the streets since she was 11. >> at a group home, i never stayed long. i was always paranoid. i have bad paranoia,
schizophrenic. >> reporter: she says living on the streets makes it hard to avoid breaking the law. according to the city, last year, police handed out about 2,300 citations a month, for 77 a day, for offenses such as sleeping in the park, blocking a sidewalk, or drinking in public. when the citations pile up, offenders are taken to jail. santi says she's been jailed three times. >> they've taken my tent. they've put my dog in jail. i have no clothes, no tent. they've taken everything i've owned. >> reporter: including her medication for hiv. >> my police colleagues tell me a all the time that they want more real solutions. people need the housing, they need a place to go. >> reporter: but housing in the bay area is already in short supply. home prices and apartment rents keep climbing and building affordable housing can take years. what would it take to end
homelessness in san francisco? >> it's a matter of resources and political will and support. >> reporter: the annual homeless count suggests only small growth in actual numbers. some city officials say it's widespread development that's now pushing the homeless into more visible spaces. >> over the last ten years, our homeless count has stayed relatively stable. that's a kind of success, but it doesn't feel like success to me, and i know it doesn't feel like success to those experienced homelessness or citizens of our city. we really need to do better. >> reporter: david tompkins thinks he knows why the homeless problem persists. but santi says she is now optimistic about her future. >> i'm hoping to get into some kind of sro housing. >> reporter: as for rebecca padilla, she has just one wish. >> making it out of this, that's for sure.
because i would love to be with my son again. my son. my pride and joy. he's 10 years old. i don't want him to see me out here like this. but he knows. >> and joining me now to talk further about efforts to end homelessness are jennifer freedenbach with the organization coalition on homelessness. city supervisor scott weiner, and dr. barry zevin, medical director of the outreach team. thank you all for being here. we just saw from that piece, it's such a difficult dilemma, one that the city has been grappling with for decades. jennifer, there's been a lot of focus on the super bowl. i just want you to address real quickly sam dodge, the homeless czar, saying there are no instructions to move people out of view for the super bowl.
what do you make of that statement? >> we've been hearing that a lot from people in the mayor's office. we've been hearing that from the brass and the police. but we've been hearing the opposite from homeless people themselves. and so, you know, we're getting two different stories from groups of people that we really trust. for homeless people, over and over again, what they're telling us is that they are being forcibly moved by police. they're especially concentrating on areas that are the entrances to the city, surrounding the freeways, entering into san francisco, that they're being told it's the super bowl and that they need to move. we're hearing this people are being told to move in the middle of rain downpours. and it's really frustrating folks. and they're already in a very desperate situation. and we have a weather situation that's making it that much worse. >> supervisor weiner, it looks like you wanted to say something. >> no. it really -- it -- i don't think it's about the super bowl and it
shouldn't be about the super bowl. the super bowl is a one-week event and it's about 52 weeks a year, because people in san francisco, whether you're homeless, whether you're a resident of the city, the current situation isn't acceptable. and we need to address it. it's not just about one week. it has to be about 365 days a year. >> you know, i passed by the caesar chavez street on my way to work. today, once again, the tent city, it was even bigger. you have called to do away with the tent cities if a humane manner. how should that be done? >> sure. the current status quo, it's not acceptable. it's not healthy. it's not safe for either the occupants of these tents or for surrounding neighborhoods. and we need to move aggressively to make sure people have options to go in the shelters, to go into navigation centers, to go
into housing. my concern is that with the growing number of tents that we will become used to them, numb, and that inertia will set in and that will back into some sort of tent as housing policy. and tents are not an acceptable housing policy. we need supportive housing for people. we need shelter for people. and i think jenny and i would agree. would not agree on everything, but i think we would agree there is not enough shelter capacity. that we need more supportive housing and we need to make that happen. >> but this is the drum beat that we hear constantly in san francisco, right? we need more resources, more shelters. you deal with this. you're a part of the -- you oversee the homeless outreach team that goes out there. what can we do differently at this point? the city spends at last count $230 million a year on home lesser vises and we still have this problem. >> i think we need to look at
what does spending $230 million mean.>> i think we need to look what does spending $230 million mean. number one, housing is the critical piece here. that's what we don't have. a shelter is not a home. the fact of the matter is many of what we pat ourselves on the back and say, we've housed people, is not a home. we're spending $230 million. a large portion of that is housing people who were formerly homeless. >> i just want to add, the remainder of what's a lot of what we're spending, we're spending keeping people homeless. we've seen study after study that shows if we put people in housing, we spend a lot less money. what happens, and the doctor can address this, is that people's health deteriorates really rapidly when they're on the streets and we end up accumulating a lot more cost because they get sicker and sicker. but by choosing not to house
people, we're biasically making a decision to spend more money on homelessness and that's exactly why we're spending so much money on homelessness, because people are on the streets and their health care is deteriorating. i want to go back to supervisor weiner's point, in that -- and i agree with him in terms of the solutions. what we were concerned about when we saw the letter, he was talking about enforcing a ban on tents. and he did not put forth any viable solutions in terms of as a member of the board of supervisors and as a policymaker in terms of putting forward the idea of this is the site where we can get some housing, this is the funding. it was look around, do some stuff. but the main focus of the letter really from our perspective was that we want to enforce the tent ban. >> i want a chance to respond to that. >> i think that's really completely inaccurate description of my letter.
the letter was a letter i sent about a week and a half ago to about six city departments, saying what is the plan to reduce the number of tents and to get people into shelter, into housing. how many tents do we have? how many people are in those tents? what are the demographics, backgrou backgrounds? what are we doing, and when will it happen in terms of expanding both shelter capacity navigation centers, which we know we need a lot more of, and so forth? and let's keep this on track. i think it is incredibly inhumane to let the status quo go on. i'm not advocating that we'll bulldoze everything away and not give people options. what i am advocating is that in connection with expanding all of these housing options, that we also move away from tents. because what i don't want to happen is we have more shelter
capacity. we have more housing. and we still see these tents out there. >> there's not enough shelters. >> i agree with that, too. we all agree with that. >> tell us a little bit about the characteristics of the homeless population. because i think people are a little confused about who are they, and are they moving in from elsewhere? what have you seen. we've been in this field for 20 years. >> i've been doing work for the homeless in san francisco since 1991. since the willie brown administration, i've been asking every new patient i see, where are you from originally? how long have you been in san francisco? the majority of the people i see have been here a long time. many native san franciscans. many people who have been here for years. there are people who come to town and are new in town. there are people who come to town and are transient in town. but the majority of the people, the people who i see every day whose health is deteriorating
have been here for quite some long while. very, very diverse. many of the people i'm seeing are coming from situations where they've suffered a whole lot of discrimination to start with. >> in the short time we have remaining, you want the tent cities gone. what are the solutions that you would like to see here? >> well, we need a significant expansion of our shelter capacity. and we have navigation center, which was a very innovative approach by the mayor's office and our human services agency to say it was going to take entire encampments with all of their belongings and their entire community and their animals, bring them into one location, get people stable, and start putting people in the housing. it's been very successful. we need about five more of them. and so it's incredibly important that we allot -- allocate the money in the budget to make that happen and that we find the sites, which is always challenging, but we can do it. >> all right. i'm going to have to leave it
there. jennifer, thank you very much. for the coalition on homelessness. supervisor scott weiner and dr. barry zevin with the san francisco homeless outreach team. >> thank you. >> thanks for having me. next week's super bowl festivities include all kinds of entertainment, including free concerts and parties. but a shadow economy often accompanies these big events. law enforcement officials say the super bowl is a magnet for human traffickers with people forced to work as prostitutes and laborers against their will. joining us now to discuss efforts to tlak down on this trade are fbi's bertrand series, assistant special agent in charge of a task force. and ruth silver taub. welcome to you both. you've been with the fbi 26 years. what will law enforcement authorities be looking for in trying to spot sex trafficking victims? >> some of the things we'll be
looking for, first of all, we will be looking at the internet sites and internet blogging sites. we know are commonly used by traffickers and commonly used by victims who are part of the industry. we'll be monitoring that. we'll be watching that. we'll be monitoring sites around various cities. streets, hotels. other venues that we know are known trafficking sites and where we've done operations. and identified victims and traffickers before. we'll be highlighting those areas. >> are you saying some of these networks travel from state to state, event to event, and some of these are known victims and traffickers to you, that you actually may see? >> absolutely. we just are not focused on this during the super bowl. this is a continuous investigation in operations that are done by the fbi and our federal and state and local partners. so we have done i think a job at
identifying traffickers, identifying trafficking networks, and identifying victims. the harder problem is -- comes in trying to detect and deter and dismantle them, and bringing those victims out. so just that we have identified them is not as easy to dismantle that. and that's why we continue to focus operations against it. >> and this is where the public can help out as well, ruth. i know that your group trains people on what to look for. what should the general public be looking for? how do you spot a potential sex trafficking victim? >> we have physical signs, mental signs that a person may not answer directly. they are controlled. they look dishevelled. they don't know what city they're in. they're frightens. they're always looking at their phone. >> is there any way to quantify
how big is this problem? we keep seeing reports that some people are saying this is bigger than the drug industry. but is that true? >> i would answer that question this way. with the drug industry, you have a product that can be consumed. it is a perishable product. the drugs are there. they're used by the individual. although there's a continuous stream of that. the difference is with sex trafficking, the victim, or with labor trafficking, the victim is there. the victim is used continuously. that victim is used repeatedly. and until that victim withdraws himself or with our non-profit agencies, or law enforcement is able to remove that victim, it is a continuous process. >> who are the johns? are the johns local to those communities? or are they also people who have flown in for big events like the
super bowl? >> they're a culmination of both. they're locals and they're individuals that actually follow trafficking organizations, in particular women from city to city. and then there's also individuals who come in for the event and just partake in that activity while they're there. >> there's a lot of discussion around this. of course, around the super bowl, there have been high-profile events. there was a press conference this week at sfo with four district attorneys, trying to shine the spotlight on this. but what happens after the game has been played, the confetti is gone. it's an ongoing problem. are you worried that awareness and focus on the issue will decline? >> there's really no statistical evidence that there's a great increase in trafficking. it's a problem that existed before this super bowl. it's going to exist after. but we're thankful because there's a lot more resources and a lot more attention, a lot more awareness, and we're hoping that
the few thousand people that we've trained will go on and continue to look, that their consciousness will be raised, and so we're hoping it will continue. but that is a worry. there's people that are vulnerable, and there's also people that are going to take advantage, that are greedy. that don't have, you know, any type of conscience and will exploit people. >> well, and as bert said, the challenge is dismantling these networks and i think it's something we can all work together on. so thank you both. bert and ruth. >> thank you. >> thank you. and now, turning to something lighter. a brighter side of silicon valley. >> when i grow up, i want to build. i want to build cameras that hunt cancer and molecules that
can change shape. i am a girl. and i built this. >> finally tonight, inspiring diversity. our next guests want to encourage a new generation of young women to study science, technology, engineering, and math, also known as stems. they're doing it with a collection of award-winning building toys geared toward girls. they were featured on "shark tank" and just sold their company to patch products. alice brooks and batino chen are stanford engineering grads behind the santa clara start-up ruminate. welcome to you both. >> thank you. >> alice, what made you decide to start ruminate? >> i studied mechanical engineering in college. there weren't many other women around. when we met in graduate school, that was one of the first things we talked about. why there weren't more women in our classes. we realized we were both inspired by things we did earlier to love engineering. >> did you have access to building toys that you felt were
friendly and interested you when you were little? >> for me, i played with my brother's hand me down building toys. legos and lincoln logs. and looking at the toys for today when we started the company, we thought those were toys marketed only to the boys. and we saw a great opportunity for us to do something. >> why did you pick toys as opposed to doing something else? there are a lot of classes out there for young girls now, for example, to become interested in stem. why toys? >> well, we want to start even earlier, before those classes. before circuits and math problems come up in the classroom when girls are 5, 6 years old. we wanted them to get comfortable building so they would develop spatial skills, get comfortable with circuits. that when those things came up in the classroom, they would already be excited about those. >> so what separates your products from all the other more traditional construction toys out there? >> well, one of the exciting things is that we bring in a lot more technology into our
products. so our very first generation, we had circuits. you could put a light together, put a motor together. so maybe you make a fan, or a merry-go-round. and that's a really exciting moment for girls when they first put that together. and seems that they themselves have build something that moves. it's just so empowering. and now, this year, we introduced a new technology called our power. we can actually control everything from your phone. so it's even more cool things you can do with the circuits and we can introduce a lot more advanced technology with that as well. >> let's see how it works. >> so we built a house here. we found that a lot of girls already know about doll houses. so as a hook, we introduced them to the doll house. but then they actually design and construct the whole thing. so they build a structure. they design furniture. couches. they can put in stairs. and then they put in circuits to really make it come alive. so you can have your fan. you can put in lights. it's really all about creating their own world. so they're the ones that are in control. >> and how does this work when you're operating it from your smart phone? >> we have one set up here. this is our power.
it connects to your phone via bluetooth. and you can do a lot of different things. you can turn on the lights. you can set the lights to blink if you want. you can turn on the motor so you can control how fast the motor spins. so if you don't want the animals to fly off, slow it down. you can change the direction of the motors, so you can imagine having an elevator that goes up and back down, or a car that you can drive around. it really opens up a lot more customization for girls. >> do you think girls learn and play differently from boys? is it important to sort of marry the story telling of the building component? >> from our testing, we found that girls were loving playing with circuit toys that we brought, but they were putting them into their own story. so we wanted to give them the chance to tell their own stories and make them actually real. and by giving them the context of something they've already seen in their other toys, we're not the first influence. so we know they've already played with a lot of other gender toys. but by doing something they're comfortable with, then we can get them hooked in and playing. >> so while you were both
growing up, were there things that happened that you felt discouraged you from trying to pursue careers in stem? >> well, in school, in elementary school, middle school, high school, i think there was always that element, oh, you're the girl that really likes science and math. but when it really hit me was when i was in college at m.i.t. and i was studying mechanical engineering and people would say to me, oh, you're not really studying mechanical engineering chg you're not really an m.i.t. student. and that kind of attitude, that's making women question themselves. >> did you question yourself when that happened? >> no, i said there's something wrong with them. >> and patina, were there any discouraging things that happened as you were coming through the school system? >> one of the biggest things is when i went to stanford, coming from cal tech. every time i would meet someone new in grad school, they'd be like what are you studying? i'd say electrical engineering. they'd give me this weird look. like back away, like maybe i don't want to talk to this girl after all. it shouldn't be abnormal for a girl to want to be engineering. it should be cool and fun and really exciting.
having that be the norm is going to be really important. >> thank you both. alice brooks and patina chen. just 27 years old and already a start-up that's sold under your belt. congratulations to you both. >> thank you. that's it for our show tonight. i'm thuy vu. thanks so much for watching. for all of kqed's news coverage, please go to kqednews.org.
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